KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Royals’ early season surge has come to a screeching halt after dropping two of three games to the American League worst Houston Astros. Gone are the happier days of early May, when the Royals were as many as seven games over .500 and triumphantly atop the division. After starting 17-10, the Royals have gone 3-12 and seen their divisional lead evolve into four-game deficit behind first place Cleveland.
It’s an exercise of confusion trying to diagnose the Royals’ problems. Fans watching any given game probably say that they aren’t taking advantage of run scoring opportunities. However, they lead the American League in batting average with runners in scoring position at .306. The pitching looks solid as well, the Royals currently rank 3rd in the AL in Earned Run Average and have a respectable .255 Batters Average Against. But there are answers in the finer details, and a lot of what’s been going wrong for Kansas City can be turned around.
Despite the poor record over the last 15 games, the Royals have only been outscored 66-63 in that span. During this rough stretch the Royals have gone 0-6 in one-run games. According to statistics from MLB.com, Royals’ pitchers are allowing opposing batter a .294 average when the score is tied. In order to win one-run games as the season progresses, the pitching will have to improve when the game is tight.
While the Royals do lead in batting average with runners in scoring position, it doesn’t do a lot of good if those opportunities are sparse. Kansas City currently ranks next to last in the AL in slugging percentage, which means when they get hits not many are going for extra bases. Since May 5th, the Royals have only hit 115 extra base hits, fewest in the central division. The most ominous stat for the offense is the dearth of home runs, the Royals rank dead last in the American League with 27.
Quite simply the Royals have to start hitting fewer singles and more doubles, triples and home runs. The hitters are performing well when presented with RBI opportunities, as those become more plentiful they should improve on their pithy run average of 4.72 a game.
The Royals can bounce back but the next two weeks will be challenging. The hot-hitting Los Angeles Angels, winners of four straight games, come to Kauffman for a four game weekend series. That set is followed by seven games split between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals, both teams that presently reside in first place in their respective divisions.